WARNING: This review contains spoilers
Ever since it was announced that Maisie Williams would be appearing in an episode of Doctor Who, ‘The Girl Who Died’ has been hyped to no end with plenty of speculation on who she could be playing. It ended up being a brand new character, Ashildr, but she is certainly not irrelevant. “I’m strange”, she says. And we really like “strange” in our Doctor Who.
While ‘The Girl Who Died’ started with a frenetic pace and many action scenes, the rest of the episode was pretty slow until the last few minutes. I would lie if I said I was entertained throughout the whole episode, but this ended up being one of my most favourite episodes of this season so far. This week, and even though Clara didn’t take her spacesuit off, we leave space behind as the Doctor and his companion land on a forest full of vikings. I’m with you Doctor, I don’t like vikings either, but like many other Whovians out there, I am really glad that they broke those sunglasses.
This episode’s main attraction was the fact that the main conflict was between the Vikings and the aliens, leaving the Doctor and Clara as outsiders. Despite their warnings, Ashildr’s passion causes a war to start between them, which made for some interesting scenes with the Doctor teaching them how to fight in a war (“winning is all about looking happier than the other guy”). By the way, I found that baby translation to be quite cheesy. It was funny when Eleventh mentioned it, but actually translating the baby’s crying into some sort of poetry was a bit too much for my taste. Other than that, the resolution of the conflict through blackmailing was very clever and interesting. I definitely wasn’t expecting that.
As we could all guess from the title, Ashildr ended up dying. No surprises there as we had to have some sort of cliff-hanger for next week’s Part 2. And, as we could guess by next week’s title, Ashildr was saved too (seriously, what’s up with all the undying this season?). Her resurrection, though kind of cheesy, was inspired by the Doctor’s emotional breakdown when realizing that he was sick of losing not wars, but people. Kudos to Peter Capaldi for that scene. This also helped the Doctor remember where his face comes from, which is also the biggest mysteries that we wanted to see resolved ever since Peter Capaldi was cast. The Tenth Doctor did it so that future-him could remember that it’s OK to break the rules to save people, just like he did in Season 4’s ‘The Fires of Pompeii’. However, this has me wondering… can the Doctor control how his regeneration will turn out
and if so, why doesn’t he regenerate as ginger? I really hope Moffat will keep elaborating on this!
Ashildr has now lost the ability to die and, as the Doctor puts it, she’s a ‘hybrid’: half-human, half-alien. However, that is not necessarily a good thing: “Immortality isn’t living forever. That’s not what it feels like. Immortality is everybody else dying“. And the episode illustrated this beautifully in a scene in which the camera spins around Ashildr and we see her face slowly becoming sadder and colder as time goes by. Ashildr will be back next week, but it’s certainly not going to be the same Ashildr.